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I have been playing the beginning of Essential Elements Book 2   I'm up to the Bb major  and F major scales and it seems to be going well... Until I go back to the G or D major.  I have a hard time finding first finger locations and it also pulls my 4th finger way too low.  what can I do to better switch from one key back to the other.  Should I be keeping my hand in the same place as if in the G major and only move the first finger way back to get the Bb and Eb? That's really awkward.

5 Responses
Posted: August 29, 2011
Last Comment: August 30, 2011

Posted: August 30, 2011
I totally agree with Beth, FWIW. I have decided that it is easier to play in the "1/2 position" for keys where the preponderance of notes are flatted (or sharped). But with keys with less flats, I'll just stretch the first finger back.

I'm actually getting pretty comfortable with this half position. More so than the higher positions!


Posted: August 30, 2011
This is why a teacher ultimately gives you the 'best' answer :)

I have a very 'relaxed and moveable' thumb, so in the case of when I play keys that Beth has mentioned like Gb major, my thumb 'still' stays where it is.  It is normally right next to my first finger and there it stays, I just move my fingers down a little....to half position without shifting the thumb.

So anyway, that is why I mentioned your thumb stays where it is but your 'hand shape' might change slightly if you have short fingers, it was my 'bad way' of explaining in a nutshell what Beth was explaining brilliantly :) and thank you for talking about the thumb, it is a very important subject.

Thank you Beth, you always come promptly to reply all of our questions so well :)

Beth Blackerby
Posted: August 29, 2011
Karen, of all the good questions posted today, this is the most involved.  My answer is that in some cases we adjust the position of our thumb to accommodate the key.  It sort of depends on where the majority of your fingers are going to hit.  The more flats there are in the key signature, the more "low positioning" you'll have. So, to use examples on either end of the spectrum...in the key of F, where you have only low first fingers on the A and E string and a low 4 on the E string,  I don't change my thumb position. However in the case of Gb major, where you have all low ones, all low 4s, all low 3s, and two low 2s....then you better believe my thumb is back near the nut. Otherwise that puts my thumb/1st finger relationship completely off kilter. In those keys, we are essentially playing in half position, and the thumb is back further toward the nut.

So then, what about keys like Bb and Ab?  Then it really depends on the passage. Again where do the majority of the notes lie? If I had a passage to play like this:

then I would surely move my thumb back for ease and comfort, and intonation. However if the passage were this:

then I would keep my thumb in the normal position to reach the E natural more easily.

Do not be afraid to move the thumb for the purpose of maintaining the  proximal relationship to the index finger!!  For some people it is right across, and for others, it's slightly closer to the 2nd finger.  Whichever the case may be, we feel intonation based on this proximal relationship.

Whe the thumb moves unintentionally due to tension, then it disrupts intonation because it moves out of that fixed positioning with the index finger. But developing a nice fluid thumb that can make minute adjustments for difficult key areas, or shifting..etc. is a good thing.

And yes, it will take a while to develop the ability to successfully go in and out of key areas. But that's one of those things that will improve, so don't worry about that. Try and focus on finding the your high one placement, then let your thumb adjust it's placement to your finger..not the other way around.

Posted: August 29, 2011
Jo's right - unfortunately you have to keep your hand, and importantly thumb, in the same place and NOT move it!  You're still in 1st position so the hand and thumb have to stay where they are and you just pull your first finger back.  This would be described as a 'low 1st finger' in the same way that that the second finger can be 'high', eg for F# or C# or 'low' for F or C (naturals).

It is difficult at first and getting just the first finger to separate from the 2nd if hard.  I can't do it correctly yet and there is some small movement, or wiggle, of my hand - I just have to be aware of this make sure I wiggle it back for other notes!

What I struggle with is knowing how far back (in relation to the nut) to pull my finger to get the semitone - and then judging where the second finger has to fall to keep it's original place if the next note is C or G etc.

Good luck!

Posted: August 29, 2011
that's right Karen, you must keep your hand in 1st position and pull your first finger back to Bb and F natural, you do not move your hand back It is 'ackward' at first when you are learning this, your first finger may feel 'squashed' somewhat, for smaller hands/fingers you might find that you do end up adjusting your hand very slightly, but keep your thumb where it is as that's your reference point. Just doing it slowly and 'be kind to yourself' like everying else slowly, patience, kind to ourselves are 3 main things aren't they? (3 things I don't remind myself often enough, I know!) Beth might already have a video showing this or she may end up posting a short video clip demonstrating it for you :)